November 17, 2005 - 7:30PM
Kim Nguyen now knows exactly when her son will die.
On December 2, at dawn, Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van will be led from his cell on death row in Singapore's Changi prison to a nearby gallows, where a hangman will be waiting.
Minutes later he will be dead, executed despite repeated pleas for clemency from supporters, human rights organisations, the Australian government and two popes.
Prime Minister John Howard appealed directly to his Singapore counterpart again today on behalf of the convicted drug trafficker, but was again rebuffed.
Ms Nguyen was told of her 25-year-old son's execution date in a letter which arrived at her Melbourne home at 2pm (AEDT) today.
"By letter, by registered letter delivered to her house ... it's incredibly impersonal," said Nguyen's Melbourne-based lawyer Lex Lasry, QC.
Ms Nguyen will now prepare to leave for Singapore, where she will be permitted to visit her son in the three days before his execution.
It is not know whether Nguyen, sentenced to hang after being caught with 396 grams of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage at Changi airport in 2002, has been told of his execution date.
Mr Howard, speaking after a meeting in South Korea with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, spoke sadly of seeing Ms Nguyen in his Sydney electorate office on Tuesday.
He described her plight as "too pitiful for words".
"Needless to say she is in a state of great anguish," Mr Howard said of Ms Nguyen, who fled Vietnam in 1980 and who gave birth to twin sons in a transit camp in Malaysia. "I feel desperately sorry for her."
Nguyen claimed he was trafficking heroin to help pay off legal fees incurred by his twin brother Khoa.
Mr Howard's plea to the Singapore PM fell on deaf ears, with Mr Lee saying after their meeting: "I explained (to Mr Howard) why we were unable to accede to his request even though we understood where he came from."
But Mr Howard was also clearly angry Mr Lee had not told him at their face to face meeting of the execution date, which he ultimately learned from Mr Lasry.
"I'm very disappointed I was not told, very disappointed," Mr Howard said later.
Mr Lasry said he was also angry and frustrated that Singapore had decided to go ahead with the execution.
"I must say my overwhelming emotion at the moment, apart from being distressed by this, I'm angry.
"I'm angry that they (Singapore government) do such a thing in such an impersonal way and I'm angry that they won't see the injustice."
Mr Lasry and fellow lawyer Julian McMahon will fly to Singapore tomorrow and hopes to see Nguyen on Saturday.
Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls said he too was disappointed at the news, and said Nguyen had shown "significant remorse".
"He even agreed to testify against those on whose behalf he was transporting the contraband," Mr Hulls said.
Both Pope John Paul II and his successor Pope Benedict XVI had made direct but unsuccessful appeals to Singapore to spare Nguyen's life, Melbourne Catholic priest Father Peter Norden said today.
"For two Popes to intervene, it's making it very clear that many people in this world are opposed to taking a life," he told AAP.
"We're deeply disappointed by this, but it's not finished yet," he said.
In Singapore, news of the execution date was met with resignation by human rights activists.
"I am not surprised. I just feel sad," said anti-death penalty campaigner and lawyer, M Ravi.
Nguyen will be the first Australian executed in Singapore, and the first Australian sentenced to death by an Asian country on drug charges since Queenslander Michael McAuliffe was hanged in Malaysia in 1993.